On the face of it, Facebook groups would seem like one of those cheap, quick, and effective ways to build quick cross-enterprise communities. Set up a group, invite attendees, guide the non-users in how to establish an account, and then control membership.
The alternatives would be a paid account like 37Signal’s most excellent Basecamp, but that is less quick and less dirty than a Facebook group, which to my eyes has a lot in common with the Web 1.0 world of Yahoo Groups. One could also think about any number of wiki solutions, but let’s say the requirements come down to an virtual team room for a collection of four to 400, heck 4,000 users all united in some cause that requires a fast, familiar, and cheap platform.
Facebook would meet that bill except for one vital detail: not everybody can use it.
It’s blocked, along with some other social networks, by many corporate network admins. Right there game over. I was pretty surprised to be in a meeting today, to hear Facebook proposed, and then watch it get shot down in less than one minute as first one, then two, then three seriously senior IT people said their organization’s blocked Facebook. I would argue that no big deal, the platform was, after all, designed for college kids to check each other before attempting a hookup. Having old farts and suits invade it as an enterprise collaboration system was not its intention.
So, the old issue of cross-organizational collaboration is still with us. How would you solve it? Rules are: open platform, open APIs, no fee, no onerous set-up. Needs a file sharing/library including rich media hosting. Must be secure.